IATA e-ticketing deadline creeping up fast on Africa’s unprepared airlines

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International airline body IATA has set a deadline of 31 December 2007 for African airlines to adopt e-ticketing. This is meant to include not only online ticket sales but airport kiosks printing boarding boarding passes and access to flight data via your mobile phone. The continent’s often long-suffering air passengers are all too aware that none of these things are yet much in evidence. Online e-ticketing would be another shot-in-the-arm for Internet growth. Fritznathan Bruce reviews the current situation.

Almost all other continents have been rolling out e-ticketing in line with IATA requirements. Even airlines in developing countries elsewhere have realised the important of installing e-ticketing systems to meet passenger needs and compete effectively. To help the process along in Africa, IATA is soon to launch an e-ticketing programme with a small African airline. This will act as a services demonstration programme for other small and medium-sized airlines. An announcement is expected shortly.

With the full support of IATA and AFRAA, the smallest African airlines (called BBBB Airlines) will be fitted with up-to-date e-ticketing services this spring as part of a trial study to look at ways of speeding up implementation in the African region. Six online shops in Lome (with high speed access) have already been installed as part of this trial. Instead of paper tickets, passengers will be able to get all relevant flight and ticketing details sent to their e-mail address. The trial will last six months and IATA hopes that it will be one element in the eventual introduction of e-ticketing in Africa by the end of 2007.

A survey of African airlines carried out by GBCS – Air Transport Consulting showed that very few in the African airline industry are currently using e-ticketing. However CEOs interviewed expected to implement e-ticketing by the deadline but there is little sign of any project implementation in many airlines. Sales and Marketing personnel interviewed were particularly keen on being able to offer their customers airline ticket sales using the Internet.

A sample of those who have either implemented or announced implementation gives some idea of current progress:

Air Seychelles: It launched a trial of Internet ticket sales in 2004 on its Mahe-Praslin route that it later expanded to all routes.

Air Ivoire: It has announced the implementation of online ticketing in December 2006.

Aerocontractors (Nigeria): This regional air transport provider moved to providing online ticket sales a year ago. Using the eTranzact platform and the Aero debit card, customers can buy tickets online, select a seat of their choice and then print out a boarding pass.

South African Airways: It has long offered e-ticketing but it will add the use of of its own credit card (in association with NetBank Ltd).

Kenya Airways: Another successful early adopter which is still increasing its Pax capacity for Internet sales.

Precision Air: This Tanzanian airline implemented e-ticketing services in March 2006. It tripled net profits to US$5.5 million in fiscal year 2006/2007.

Kulula.com: This low-cost domestic South African carrier (in the mould of the UK’s EasyJet and Ireland’s Ryanair) has set itself the goal of making 90% of its booking online. Currently it has about a 25% share of the domestic market.

Ethiopian Airlines: In April 2007 the airline implemented e-ticketing and announced publicly its objective of moving more and more ticket sales to the new platform.

In the light of the above, it would seem to be a good time for e-ticketing applications providers (with the usual strong support from IATA) to have more substantive conversations with African airlines about implementing e-ticketing.